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Sunday, Mar. 24, 2002
Oh please, please stop your activity at once and go read Sundry. I read the whole of her offerings and, had she been writing entries for several years, I'd likely still be reading.

I broached an arena unfamiliar to me last night, one of those uncomfortable situations you find yourself in from time to time. Like if I were to walk into the Ladies Room and someone locked the door on me.

Okay, maybe that's a poor example.

For reasons that have yet to be made clear I wound up over at Stu's house last night while Stu wasn't home. He was actually at our favorite Filipino's house, celebrating some godchild or another's birthday and drinking intoxicants that contained multiple uses of the letter 'g'. In the meantime, I had the hazy notion that my three progeny, wife and self were to eat dinner at his house. Along with Patty, his long suffering spouse.

That being said, understand that with Stu, the concept of time is often simply that. A concept. This is the man who wears a Bulova that oft times merely encircles his wrist in an ornamental way, rather than being an instrument for the actual telling of time. Or maybe he skipped that class in first grade. I dunno.

At any rate, the sun was sinking rapidly and the tribe had gathered for grilling of food and Stu had yet to make an appearance and lord, when you have teenagers and are faced with the prospect of telling them that dinner is on hold, you may as well just grasp a butter knife and begin plunging it rapidly in and out of your chest. Patty had burgers and chicken breasts laid out neatly on the counter, the DVD player was humming merrily, but the conversation was rapidly losing steam as we tapped toes and awaited the arrival of the chef.

Patty finally got ahold of him by telephone and put him on the speaker so that we could hear the excuses. He picked up on the other end and drawled "Helloooo?" in such a way that I could almost see musical notes floating, cartoon-like, out of the speakerphone.

After a minute of chastisement by his wife, he coughed and offered, "Start the grille. I'm comin' in."

Now, in a not altogether infrequent and very public way, Stu has pointedly and profanely forbade the touching of his grille by hands other than his own. This instrument, his personal shrine for things cooked out of doors, is the very state of the art in terms of placing animal flesh above heat and rendering it palatable. A Weber charcoal-with-propane-starter-stainless-steel-sideboard-oh-hallelujah monument to American ingenuity. Complete with its' own bricked patio and custom rubber cover.

So we hesitated.

Outfoxed: "C'mon, somebody has to start the grille."
Patty: "No way. Not me."
Ally: "I'd sooner just lay down in a busy intersection."
3 Kids: "Uncle Stu told us he'd cut off our fingers."

In a fit of hunger, and fueled by a number of libations, I seized the moment. Strode to the patio, flung back the cover, opened the sacred grille and turned on the gas. Just a little, as I had seen him do innumerable times. Dumped the charcoal, sparked it up. Within a few minutes, the coals began to form and off went the gas. I returned to the kitchen.

Patty visibly collapsed when informed that the fire had been started. In relief, I suppose. But I wasn't through yet.

"Gimmee the food. We're all hungry. That lunatic might never show up."

Did I mention the numerous libations? I had settled into a fine level of relaxed inebriation which required a bit more concentrated effort to, say, balance a plate, various condiments, spatula, and a half empty beer but I made it back to the patio without mishap. Probably because I had thoughtfully stuffed the beer into my coat pocket. But somewhere in the back of my mind a warning bell was going off. That little voice of conscience.

Okay, this is Stu's grille and he always overcooks stuff. Overcooks? A flame-thrower couldn't be any more successful. There must be a reason, there must be a way to avoid the vulcanization of hamburger and chicken. Besides, if you screw it up nobody in the house will back you up and say they had anything to do with it. Cowards.

So I was very careful. I seasoned, flipped and watched the food. In that deliberate way that one does when one is half in the bag and knows it. Stu generally throws the food on the outer edges of the grille, clangs on the cover and races back into the house for more entertainment. Not me. I was Martha Stewart with a Coors Lite. I was so into it, in fact, that I didn't even hear Stu until he was right behind me.

"THE HELL YOU DOIN' ON MY GRILLE, SLIM?", he roared.

Once my feet reached solid ground again, I calmly pointed out the perfectly seared cuts of meat, the chuckling little fire, the clean and prepped sideboard. He was having none of it.

"OH JESUS YER DOIN' IT ALL WRONG, MAN. YA GOTTA PUT THE LID ON AND LET THAT STUFF COOK, FER GODSAKES. WHATTA YA TRYIN' TA DO, GIVE US ALL BOTCH…BOTCHALIS…GIVE US ALL SCURVY??"

In order to prevent the scene from getting any uglier, I suggested he fetch another round. That seemed to mollify him, and as soon as he ducked into the house I whipped the goods off the grille and onto the plates, reloaded my pockets, tossed on the lid and scurried into the house behind him.

He appeared with two fresh beers. "WHAT? WHERE YOU GOIN' WITH THAT FOOD? IT AIN'T HALF-COOKED YET!"

I assured him that he had been quite a while in the house and that everything was plenty done. Being in the three sheets to the wind condition that he was, it took him a minute to ponder this but, lurchingly, he followed in my wake as I ducked past and delivered food to the awaiting maws of spouses and children.

Later, as he chomped on a medium rare burger, he was heard to comment "SAY! THESE AREN'T SO HALF BAD! JUST LIKE I MAKE 'EM, EH PATTY?"

It is to her credit that she neither rolled her eyes nor cuffed him about the ears. Could be that she was too busy enjoying the first unburned grilled food she'd had in a long time.

Probably since she was over at my house last.

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